Gay Marriage: Conflict Between Equal Rights and Religious Freedom?

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A mock wedding cake with two grooms on display in San Francisco.

A mock wedding cake with two grooms on display in San Francisco. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As of 5pm tonight, gay couples in California will be able to get married under state law. And people are lined up say, "I do." Of course, it's not an issue that's without debate. At least one county in California has suspended all weddings. And even beyond California there is a fundamental split between two traditionally American rights: equality and freedom of religion. Proponents of gay marriage argue that this is a clear-cut case of equal rights... While many churches, mosques, and temples make an equally vociferous argument that the government should not be allowed to force them to marry gay couples. California is only the second state, after Massachusetts, to legalize gay marriage, but this is a debate that's likely to reach into every state in the country. From where you sit, do you see a conflict between religious freedom and equal rights?



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I was deeply saddened to hear this story announced with a story about a United Methodist official denying a same sex couple use of a United Methodist owned facility for a wedding ceremony. That idividual does not represent all or even most United Methodists. I am treasurer of Sunnyside United Methodist Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We are a rainbow congregation welcoming and celebrating all people.

Sent by Sue in Kzoo | 2:08 PM | 6-16-2008

The sheer meanness of the anti-gay religious movement (based on the slimmest of possibly mistranslated Biblical support) is troubling. Can't they just live & let live? Or better yet, love their neighbors even if those neighbors have different beliefs?

Sent by Jen Beaven | 2:13 PM | 6-16-2008

"Religious liberty" only extends so far. We don't allow it as an excuse to prevent inter-racial couples from getting married, and we don't allow it as an excuse to sacrifice cattle. The idea of "religious liberty," while very important, should NEVER be allowed as a trump-card against Constitutional and human rights such as equal protection and the pursuit of happiness.

Sent by Derek Knisely | 2:16 PM | 6-16-2008

Should a racist photographer be allowed to dicline to work at a african american wedding based on his racist beliefs?

Sent by Mike Hardy | 2:17 PM | 6-16-2008

With the decrease in members want would think that a church would be happy to have new members, gay, straight or extra terssital. Get them to come to church and let God decide--that's his/her job!

Sent by Al Reller | 2:17 PM | 6-16-2008

religious opposition to same sex marriage is religious based bigoty and unfounded in Christian Scripture. Cultural prejudices are being substituted for God's word. Ezekiel 16:49 says the sin of Sodom was pride, excessive wealth and leisure and having no concern for the poor. If you don't believe in same sex marriage don't get married to someone of the same sex, but you have no right to enforce your beliefs on society in general. 1Timothy 4:3 says in later days those with given over to a doctrine of deception and with seared conscience will forbid marriage.

Sent by Greg Satorie | 2:22 PM | 6-16-2008

It seems to me that the establishment clause of the first amendment would dictate that churches should have nothing to do with the legal definition of marriage. Let the churches define marriage within their church, and let the state or federal government recognize only the legal civil union between any two people who want to join in such a union. That way the churches can define who gets married in their church, but the state will give equal rights to all people as called for by the Constitution.

When my wife and I got married the Catholic priest signed the legal document in the sacristy of our Catholic church. That seems to be a breach of the separation of church and state.

So those who are really concerned about religious freedom ought to remember the establishment clause as well as the free exercise clause. Separating the legal definition from the church's definition seems to be a good solution for all involved.

That is of course, unless you aren't really concerned about equal rights, but instead want to impose your views on everyone.

If you really want religious freedom,

Sent by Timothy J. Paalinski | 2:24 PM | 6-16-2008

Religious intolerance does not trump equal rights.

Sent by M Annette Watlington | 2:24 PM | 6-16-2008

shirt, no shoes, no service" or "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." I thought a business has the option to not do service with anyone.

Sent by Simone in Olympia, WA | 2:24 PM | 6-16-2008

When are we going to learn that the law of this land is the Constitution, not the Bible, or the Koran, or any other book used by religious groups as the basis of faith?

Sent by Jim Couts | 2:24 PM | 6-16-2008

I'm wondering what the situation would be if theoretically, someone belonged to a religious organization that, on the basis of its theological doctrine, wanted to discrimate against black people or Christians? How would the law see this clash of equality vs. religious liberty?

Sent by Alan LaPayover | 2:25 PM | 6-16-2008

discrimination is NOT ILLEGAL! This conversation is inflammatory unless you describe the meaning of a PROTECTED CLASS.
Where is you civil rights expert?

Sent by Sarah Everett | 2:25 PM | 6-16-2008

I see no conflict.

I am 100 percent behind the right of homosexual couples to marry under the law. I am also 100 percent behind the right of private religious organizations to determine as a matter of their theology that they will not sanction homosexual weddings.

There is, however, no right which should permit individuals to dictate the private religious beliefs of others. Churches are not public institutions, and there is no right of equal access to their facilities. Homosexual couples who disagree with a particular denomination's dogma are free to either find or found an alternative.

Sent by Ben Stansberry | 2:25 PM | 6-16-2008

It seems to me that the question fails to distinguish between freedom "from" and freedom "to." One should be free "from" discrimination and free to express one's beliefs as long as these do not discriminate. Marriage is a civil ceremony, and any discrimination against gays is against the law because when the element of religion comes into the discussion of marriage, it seems that this is a matter of separation of church and state.

Sent by Professor Catherine Hildreth-Reed | 2:26 PM | 6-16-2008

Is the case of the photographer's being sued a matter of choice of words? If they had simply said they were booked that weekend instead of stating their religous view, would that have removed the legal liability?

Is this simply a matter of making sure you choose your words carefully. You may be lying, but at least you won't get sued?

Sent by Aaron Diestel | 2:26 PM | 6-16-2008

It seems to me that the use of the boardwalk that was part of a Methodist church is similar to requiring a Rabbi or Priest to perform a marriage where one or both of the couple are not members of their faith. On the other had, the photography example seems to me like a photographer some years ago refusing to photograph a mixed race couple because they didn't think it was proper. That is a public business and there should be some expectation of protection against discirimination

Sent by Janie Epstein | 2:26 PM | 6-16-2008

Too often public debate about same-sex marriage is distilled down to religion vs. gay couples, but it is far more complex than that. I belong to a religious community that strongly supports the rights of same-sex couples, in both religious and secular settings. One heterosexual couple in our community declined to be married under law because this right is not shared by all. We celebrated their marriage the same way we would a same-sex couple: as a church independent of the state.

Sent by L. Pierce | 2:28 PM | 6-16-2008

I disagree with the idea that it is possible to distinguish between the Church's "religious" functions and "public" functions. Your legal professor suggests that it is only the latter that will be required to abide by gay rights requirements. This distinction between "religious" and "public" means that the government gets to define what the church's mission is. Churches do many things that they consider central to their identity that the government may consider "public". There are no objective criteria for this distinction, and it permits the government to significantly curtail the freedom of religion.

Sent by Sally Roberts | 2:28 PM | 6-16-2008

Are businesses, such as photographers, allowed to refuse service based on other factors, such as race or religion? Can the Christian photographers refuse to take wedding photographs for Jewish weddings? Or can they refuse to take wedding photographs for African Americans?

Sent by Liz | 2:29 PM | 6-16-2008

A persons rights end when they attempt to force them upon another. I do not care what a person feels but they have no right to force thier views upon me or anyone else. Tolerance goes BOTH ways. What I am seeing is gays being intolorant of others. Saying accept me or else is not the route to make people like you, it is the route to make people hate you.

Sent by Mark | 2:29 PM | 6-16-2008

the conservatives are very clever, wrapping this thing in holy robes. It never crossed the minds of the white supremacists to lean on the church to prevent racial integration, then again in those days the side of liberty had a preacher on its side to begin with.

We must tell those who hide behind the church that denying homosexuals any rights that are given to heterosexuals is discriminatory and wrong.

The Conservatives may want us to see them as an oppressed minority, and hide behind the church to do so, but they are not, and to use the church to protect discrimination is cynical and wrong.

Sent by Marya DeBlasi | 2:30 PM | 6-16-2008

A religious leader may not be forced to conduct a ceremony it cannot sanction, but can the use of the building use be forced? The clergy may not have to participate, but can the rental of the building be forced?

On a personal note there was a story in the morning in which a person said being refused the use of a building said it was her first bout with discrimination. Considering my experience being Jewish in America, I find that very hard to believe!

Sent by Sarah Michlin | 2:30 PM | 6-16-2008

Why would anyone want to BELONG to a church that doesn't accept him or her as a human being? If a church is so unloving, maybe it doesn't deserve to have members who believe that God made us all and wants us to love each other. Let them stew in their hatred!

Sent by Marion McNamara | 2:30 PM | 6-16-2008

I'd like to know whether your guests would agree that there an analogy between people who don't want to offer services of various kinds to same sex coupes and the people who at one time would not want to offer the same kind of services to what used to be called "mixed marriages" (biracial couples). I personally don't see any diffence.

Sent by John G. | 2:31 PM | 6-16-2008

The only conflict is when Religious Belief's interfere with Secular Law.

As a Presbyterian, Christian, Bisexual Male, married to a bisexual Female, I think that whom your life partner is, is YOUR decision, and should not be dictated by federal or state law.

Marriage/Civil Unions done at a Court House are no threat to Relgious Liberties. IF a church chooses to say no to gay marriage... that is their right... but if a church chooses to allow gay marriage, they should be allowed to do so...

State and Federal Laws that forbid Gay Marriage, are absolutely a civil rights issue.

RELIGIOUS Groups are trying to control marriage, as a religious institution, and not a family institution. By pushing for laws, and Amendments to the constitution.
There is no place for Religious law, in our Government.

Sent by Mark, Grain Valley Missouri | 2:32 PM | 6-16-2008

I'm an atheist.

If I wanted to marry a woman in a civil ceremony, would I and my hypothetical bride be allowed to use the Ocean Grove pavilion?

Sent by Mike McAngus | 2:32 PM | 6-16-2008

I am amused that the gay rights folks want freedom to do as thy choose but don't want bigot to have that same freedom; I am amused that the homophobes want the right to be left alone but don't want to give gays the same freedom. Ain't America great?

Sent by Jane | 2:32 PM | 6-16-2008

Because a photographer is an artist, I don't think he or she should be obligated to photograph anyone he or she doesn't feel comfortable photographing. Artists are not providing a mere service; they're creating something. Particularly for a wedding. If you don't support gay marriage, how can you provide your best effort at a gay wedding? One cannot legislate creativity!

If a gay person comes in and wants a photo taken for a business card, no problem. But photographing a gay wedding is not the same. As a singer at wedding services, I can understand the consideration that such a photographer might face.

Sent by karen gernand | 2:35 PM | 6-16-2008

I don't see a conflict between equal protection and First Amendment protections when it comes to gay marriage.

There are churches in California and Massachusetts (the two states where gay marriage are legal) that would marry gay couples and there are some that won't.

I think, more and more, as we go along with laws that allow gay marriage, more and more churches will perform marriage ceremonies and those would be available for gay couples to get married.

Additionally, since government is supposed to be religion-neutral, if a state passes a law allowing gay marriage, then government officials are required to uphold that, as long as the laws are on the books. If they want to resign over religious belief, that is their choice.

The churches that do not want to perform marriages are welcome and free to do that -- under their First Amendment rights.

As for private businesses, then let the market take over. If a wedding photographer or caterer refuses service to a gay couple, that is their prerogative under the First Amendment. They may lose a lot of business, just from the perception that they are not friendly to all people, but as a small business owner, that is the risk they have to take.

Sent by Ben | 2:37 PM | 6-16-2008

In the past, many churches opposed equal rights for black people, citing Biblical teachings. Is the opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians similar to that? Or how is it different.

Sent by Mary L Nielsen | 2:37 PM | 6-16-2008

Question: If the wedding were between, e.g., NeoNazi's could the photographer refuse because they were one of the groups persecuted by real Nazi's?

Sent by Stacy R | 2:38 PM | 6-16-2008

So a fox wanted to be a walrus. The walrus said that the fox was a fox and not a walrus. The walrus told the fox that no matter what the fox did, he would never be a walrus. Marriage is, and has always been between a man and a woman. Why do we feel that it is appropriate to suddenly change the definition of a marriage?

Why not call the legal bond between two gay or lesbian people alloadon, instead of marriage. Make up any word you like, but do not call it what it is not.

Sent by Rich V | 2:39 PM | 6-16-2008

I think the important issue is- Which is more important: religious issues or civil issues? Logically, the religious sides issues with the strictly civil issues hold NO water and never did. The only reservation seems to be intolerance by religious people as opposed to a rational, logical argument

Sent by Nck | 2:39 PM | 6-16-2008

Hello. I'm a married heterosexual man and think that under no circumstances should hate and discrimination be legitimized in the federal or state constitutions. As we do not legitimize racism in this country we should not legitimize an individual's ignorance in relation to discriminating against two people who love each other regardless of their orientation. Anyone who advocates against the rights of same sex couples because they think it diminishes their own relationship, the "institution of marriage," or for any other reason for that matter, should take a good long look at him or herself and maybe reevaluate their own values. There are enough real problems in this country and the world in general that we don't need to create new ones by discriminating against people who love each other.

Sent by Trenton J. McKinney | 2:39 PM | 6-16-2008

While defense against discrimination based on something that one cannot control (race, sex, age) should obviously be protected, sexual orientation (whether something you are born with or something you choose) seems to fit more along the lines of something else that is constitutionally protected: religion. So the argument that because it's a choice seems moot -- religion is a choice as well, but it is fundamental to one's personhood, just like sexual orientation.

Sent by Brandon buerkle | 2:40 PM | 6-16-2008

I believe that in a free society, a private business owner has the right to refuse service to whoever he wants for any or no reason. If they refuse service, they are doing nothing to hurt anybody except themselves as they are losing customers and therefore money. Now, if they go out of their way to slander these people or something else like that, then obviously that is a different situation. I know many people may think of this as cruel and a return of segregation but I do not agree. Segregation was kept up via government officials and violence, and I am calling for a absence of both. If a photographer refused to work at a homosexual wedding, I'm sure one of his competitors would be glad to take his place. This is what a free society means to me.

Sent by Kyle | 2:41 PM | 6-16-2008

I am a lesbian and have been"married" through a gay church. I had friends take pictures and cater the affair. As far as the photographer issue, I believe they have the right to stand up for their beliefs. We (The gay and lesbian community) don't want anyone telling us what we must do how dare we turn around and become the thing we hate? And would you really want your pictures taken by someone who does not support you?

We (as Americans) need to get 2 different words for marriage, one for legal one for religion.

Sent by Julie Kretzschmar | 2:43 PM | 6-16-2008

Although I do not like the churches decision not to preform same sex marriages, as a Catholic, I can be denied any sacrement if I make it known that I take/use birth control.

Sent by Ruth | 2:45 PM | 6-16-2008

Question: How does the tax money for churches differ say from public schools. NCLB dictates what schools do/say, etc...

Wouldn't the same hold true for churches? Please explain why tax with holding would be a 'weapon' if churches had their tax support taken for discrimination of gays.


Sent by Aimee from Tucson | 2:47 PM | 6-16-2008

It's all well and good to say that religious groups shouldn't be forced to do something that they don't 'believe in or agree with" but what are we saying when we are so accepting of belief systems that incorporate discrimination against a particular group? How can we as a country accept and protect belief systems that are so clearly biased and hurtful toward some human beings? Would we accept groups that bind women's feet, or lets say let older men have sex with and marry female children? Why are so many of us willing to just accept these primitive and hurtful belief systems and give those groups tax exemptions so that they can continue to perpetrate this type of intolerance?

Sent by Jo Nol | 2:49 PM | 6-16-2008

I thought it was interesting that, during today's TOTN, Jordan Lorence distinguished between sexual orientation and race on the grounds that sexual orientation is something that has to do with behavior and identity, whereas race does not. Social science has shown repeatedly that race is not biologically determined -- it is a social construct. As a lawyer, he should be aware that who gets to define themselves as "white" has been contested and has changed greatly over time. Likewise, how we racially identify (what our racial identity means to us, how we express it) is very much tied up with our behaviors and choices. Isn't this distinction between "choice" and "non-choice" a bit extreme? Would Lorence argue that Tiger Woods, for example, has had no choices in how he identifies racially? And what about the rest of us?

Sent by Jesse Rude | 2:50 PM | 6-16-2008

The bulk of scientific evidence (something which some "Christians" seem to ignore) is that homosexuality is not a choice, any more than is eye color. Talking about the "homosexual lifestyle" is inane.

> US laws do restrict the right of churches to do many things: a church which has a faith-based belief in human sacrifice is not going to be allowed to practice it, regardless of the First Amendment.

> There is no legal reason for any religious group to honor civil marriage ceremonies; the Catholic Church did not consider marriages by civil authorities to be legitimate until quite recently. So, the statement that "this forces religious groups to honor gay marriage" is nonsense; the civil authorities cannot force a church to bless civil actions.

Sent by Ed C | 2:52 PM | 6-16-2008

Isn't another founding principle of the United States that the rights of the minority cannot be superseded by the rights of the majority? If thats true how can states not allow gay marriage by saying tha it goes against their "religious morals".

Sent by Matt Redmond | 2:52 PM | 6-16-2008

As an African-American I am continuously offended by the comparison of discrimination against gays to the discrimination against blacks. Gays can and have been successful at hiding their sexual choices whenever it was beneficial for them. They can also change between LGBT anywhere along their journey. Blacks have never been able to remove our skin color to avoid persecution or gain access to the numerous opportunities & institutions where we are unwelcome. Where is the documentation of the systematic government supported "holocaust" against gay people? When were gays enslaved for hundreds of years, labled as inhuman, beaten, lynched, raped, etc.? It's like a man saying he can compare the small double standards that favor women with the daily struggles women face living in a patriarchial society. Being in the room when a child is born is totally different than carrying that child and birthing that child. Living in America as a gay person is totally different than living in America as a black person. Stop trying to make them equal...they never can be.

Sent by Lucille | 2:57 PM | 6-16-2008

The gentleman that called in during the show made a point about the definition of discrimination. Is discrimination only defined by the way that you are born, i.e. African American, female, etc.? Under this premise, do homosexuals fall under anti-discrimination laws since it is undecided if one is born homosexual or choose to be so?

My reply to this is that: "Is not religion a choice? One may be baptized at a young age and then choose to be a Buddhist later in life. Or raised a Buddhist and convert to Catholicism. Any number of circumstances may be similar to these. But one is NOT born to a certain religion as your religion may change and can be changed at any time. So, if you can not discriminate against someone on the basis of their religion, which is a variable factor and not unchangeable like skin color, then how can you discriminate on the basis of the so-called choice to be homosexual?

Sent by Rhonda | 2:58 PM | 6-16-2008

I have nothing against same sex couples having the same legal rights as married couples to inherit, have hospital and health care decision making rights, etc. But I don't see how compelling a specific church, a member of the clergy, or other person to help that which they condemn is part of the "rights" of the same sex couple. That is where their fist has hit the religious person's/organization's nose.

YU has a gay couple in the married student housing???? This is not a matter of mistranslating. At YU everyone living in that dorm can translate a very clear, very overtly stated passage. How welcome have these people been made to feel? Or have other families been forced to have them over for Shabbat dinner? Even if they don't like them for other reasons? I guess I have a new definition of "chutzpah"!

Sent by Sarah M | 3:03 PM | 6-16-2008

I have a hard time understanding why this debate exists because for me the answer is quite clear. We are all human beings and all deserve to be treated with equal respect, dignity and fairness. In that light it seems fairly obvious that the right to marry whomever we choose is something that we all possess, regardless of orientation. That said, I think that if a church does not want to endorse a marriage because of their interpretation of their religious code that is completely acceptable. There are plenty of churches out there who will recognize a homosexual marriage and the ones that don't, I feel confident will eventually come around. Marriage may have a religious connotation for some, or even most, but in our society it is also a civil institution with federal and state benefits. That means that the civil aspects of marriage, the federal and state benefits and everything else, must be open to everyone.

I don't, however, feel that the right to refuse service applies to a business. When you are operating a business you are in the public sector. Despite your religious convictions, you are not catering to someone's religion; you are catering to them as a person and everyone is deserving of equality and respect. A church is different because it is a purely religious establishment (unless they receive government funding, that's a whole other discussion) but a business is purely secular and has no right to discriminate in their services based on sexual orientation.

Sent by Sean Doumas | 3:04 PM | 6-16-2008

Rich V. writes: "Marriage is, and has always been between a man and a woman. Why do we feel that it is appropriate to suddenly change the definition of a marriage?"

In truth, Rich, who gets to marry whom has never been that straightforward (pardon the pun). In the early Christian church, marriage was not encouraged. Only a few generations back, marriage in the West was considered more of a bond between two families than between a man and a woman (and brides and grooms didn't always choose each other). In societies across the globe, marriage rights and responsibilities are by no means the same. So, now it seems that the definition of "marriage" is undergoing another change. The question is actually whether the government should recognize it or not. Countless churches and businesses already have, by conducting gay and lesbian marriages and recognizing the rights of gay/lesbian partners. Isn't it time for the government's definition to catch up with the definition that millions of Americans are already acknowledging?

Sent by Jesse Rude | 3:06 PM | 6-16-2008

The 'separation of church and state' is frequently MISQUOTED. It does not mean that nothing religious happens on government property and nothing government happens on church property. It means that the government will not also be the church; stemming from Old England and the Christians' desire there to worship separate from a church ruled by the crown of England. If people really knew their history and why this country was originally settled, we would n't have this confusion over what marriage is and isn't. Marriage has always been, since the beginning of recorded human history, between a man and woman or, in some cases, women - plural - as in the case of the Old Kings in Jewish history. Relations between members of the same sex is actually referred to as an "abomination" according to biblical sources, and I do not understand how churches (i.e. Methodist, etc.) can condone and want to legalize same-sex unions and call them 'marriage'. If someone wants a domestic partnership for whatever reason, that's great. There are numerous situations that would warrant that, not just gay unions, but heterosexual couples who don't believe in marriage, but want rights of survival protected). But don't try to redefine 'marriage' in the process.

Sent by Diana Dee | 3:13 PM | 6-16-2008

We for one are fed up with being told by others what we should believe or do in our life when these same people are hypocrites. These same hypocrites though manage to convince enough people to agree with them to get ballot issues to define marriage; when conception occurs; etc. These same people go out and vote when "their" issues are on the ballot like in OH so these same people can decide in many cases who will be President; Governor; etc.

This is what we get when we have a polarized society. If we were more like Europe; we could live and let live. We would have a proportional voting so that smaller parties could also be seated in Congress instead of by and large the 2 main parties. We would stop trying to force our own personal beliefs on others. We might actually fix the problems of this country if we stopped dealing with issues that are not really important in the long run.

Too bad this isnt Europe where tolorance is by and large allowed though they have other problems that this country doesnt have.

Sent by jm | 3:16 PM | 6-16-2008

If Obama's ex-pastor Jeremiah Wright does not have the right to make anti-American comments at the national press club, then you cannot restrict gay people and support homophobia measures against gay people. You cannot have it both ways. Either give people the right to live their lives or don't. Churches should get out of the business of social services because you cannot discriminate against people. I am highly offended when people suggest homosexuality is a choice or try to relate it to race. Race is primarily a cultural phemenonon. There is no biological bases for race we are one species. We should not make race a issue when it should not be and likewise we should not to make homosexuality a big legal issue. It is our culture or society that needs to change or forget about trying to restrict and redefine people's personal lives. I cannot wait until we discover the gay gene or begin the understand the complexity of human sexuality. Homosexuality (hate this word because it does not mean anything really) human beings are human beings. Homosexuality cannot be separated from heterosexuality.

Sent by Cornelius Malcolm | 3:23 PM | 6-16-2008

American's have used Religion as much as possible to initially get their way, in support of slavery, in support of oppression of women equality rights and now gays. Most civilized countries allow the same religious freedoms without the price or cost allowing discrimination against others. There is tolerance for all types of religions and beliefs in so many countries but along with equal tolerance or acceptance of equal rights and protections for all, not just for those in a certain religious camp. In Norway, it is mandated to have a certain number of women on a board because the country was not moving fast enough to end discrimination in the work place and require equality for women. Until our country and government (with a majority standing up for equality and non-discrimination for all) say across the board, equality and equal protections first and benefits to all with tolerance and respect we will continue to move as slowly as it has taken to respect equal rights and treatments for blacks and women.
This is mostly political and financial with a mask that says religion on it. Gays and multiple races should have as much respect and the same rights as any other American according to the Constitution and human standards! A religious person's beliefs does not make them better then me nor allow them to take my rights away or prevent me from living my life with the same rights they have! We need a supreme court and a government willing to recognize the writing on the wall and stand up, not sit down on a political bench.
Carol King
Cramerton, NC

Sent by Carol King | 3:24 PM | 6-16-2008

We can't keep thinking with our religious and selfish beliefs. We have to start thinking as a collective of humans that are trying our best to survive here on earth. Our future holds many biological uncertainties. The least of our worries should be trying to fight against gay and lesbian marriages!

Unlike race, religion forces too many people to make too many social exceptions and exemptions. Race is biologically inherited, religion is a MAN-MADE concept.

This country's founding cannot be set in stone. Before Christianity there were the American Indians. Before the American Indians, there were non-human species.

Religion has given people a moral code, but in the same token it has corrupted people's minds. It causes separatism. Religion has separated us individually. This separate view has also separated us from nature.

Social separation goes hand in hand with environmental degradation.

This seems a bit jumbled, but it all ties together.

Sent by Christina | 3:25 PM | 6-16-2008

There is no conflict between religious freedom and equal rights, this issue is totally made up and I cannot help but wonder why it is surfacing right now and out of all places on NPR. Religions are free to worship whoever and whatever they want. Their right is cemented in constitution and absolute majority of gays and lesbians have no problem with that. When the government or business discriminates based on your gender identity, preference or whatever you choose to call it, is entirely different matter. The entire marriage equality movement stands on one premise: Civil marriage licence may not be denied to same sex couples because or religious prejudice. The right of religious marriage may be granted or denied by each religion based on their dogma. NPR, stop making up issues where none exist!

Sent by Hans Kraus | 3:27 PM | 6-16-2008

Who needs marriage...heterosexuals do! They invented it to legitimize their children and for easy transfer of property including the bride. They sacrementalized it by saying God has something to do with it. I really will never understand why so many gays want in on this out-dated and folksy heterosexual ritual. Gays...get financial power of attorney and a good will and a health care directive from a lawyer and you'll get basically what heterosexuals call marriage. They divorce at a rate of 50%, so it can't really be that great after all.

Sent by Mike | 3:29 PM | 6-16-2008

I see some real problems arising. The photographer in the aired discussion, I believe, should have been able to decline the lesbian marriage job without threat of lawsuit, if he was polite and didn't try to impose his personal beliefs, he should be able to simply decline without penalty.
He shouldn't be required to lie, and if he wants to lose that business, that should be allowed as his decision. The couple had no more business trying to impose their decision as he had trying to impose his beliefs on them.

Forcing gay marriages and all that comes with them onto unwilling participants will only create and lengthen these societal differences. If the couple had only one photographer in a huge area available, or if all photographers universally denied services to them, then there's a case for the matter to be pushed in the courts.

It's a very fine line, for sure, but requiring any service provider to do a job has many consequences outside of just this issue. What if a photographer is legally compelled to shoot nudity or soft porn? What if he is compelled to shoot surveillance?

I'm all for full recognition of any way two people want to commit to each other for life, including marriage. I also belive that any public space that is used as a site for marriage ceremonies should be gender and color blind. Any public official who has a part in permitting marriage, or any other union, has no right to discriminate.

But requiring under threat of lawsuit to provide attendent services is just wrong, and opens up a big can of worms outside this single issue.

It also makes wide acceptance of gay marriage as an issue needlessly harder and more divisive. Big changes like this take time, but business is business; once the marriage laws are opened up all over the country, all this small stuff will fade away in short order. The gay community needs to take it's fight to the state governments first and foremost, and they deserve to win there. All the lesser issues are just chump change.

Sent by banjomike | 3:37 PM | 6-16-2008

Lucille you're missing the point. The gays are being deprived of rights as were blacks. You may be on point about American blacks having suffered more, but you're way off base when you say it's deprivation of rights is not the same.

Sent by Ray | 3:41 PM | 6-16-2008

I strongly doubt anyone in the homosexual community wants to force themself on any religious group, institution or function. There are plenty of accepting religious entities. Why would one surround oneself with hostile people in a place where one is seeking enlightenment and peace?

As a lesbian, I want the state and federal protections and rights of a marriage because of the many legal points already decided. Presently, I need multiple contracts to gain even modest parity with a marriage. If I move to a different state, I need to redo those contracts. This is not a special right we are seeking. If I get married in California, I want to still be married when I come home to Georgia. Generally, I don't care if it is called "marriage" as long as the judicial system understands it is exactly the same a marriage. Otherwise, we will be facing years of legal wrangling.

Sent by Jo in Atlanta | 4:00 PM | 6-16-2008

I agree with the fact that homosexuals have the right to get married. Getting married to someone you love, same sex or not, is a basic human right. Getting married where you want, however, is not a basic human right. Equal rights means "equal" rights. You can't tell someone to accept your decision and then persicute them for theirs. Although I am straight I have gay friends. They don't push their beliefs on me and I don't push mine on them. This is how it should be on a broad scale. People who don't believe in gay mariage (religious orginizations, individuals) should not push their ideals and practices on homosexuals just like homosexuals should not push their ideals and practices on people who don't believe in gay marriage. If you are gay and want to get married then that is fine, but if you want everyone to accept it then you are shooting for some high expectations.

Sent by Ryan Thomas | 4:28 PM | 6-16-2008

Why is one group free to accept a belief, yet another group is not free to reject it? Seems to me we have a double standard.

Our constitution is based on the freedom to believe as we choose. In fact, the first amendment guarantees it. Nothing in this article suggested hatred, violence, slander, or anything short of simply opposing beliefs. When we start winning cases supporting one belief over another, we are jeopardizing that very freedom.

Sent by BEN | 5:10 PM | 6-16-2008

Lucille wrote "They can also change between LGBT anywhere along their journey."

Untrue. The bulk of scientific evidence is that sexual orientation is either determined prenatally or genetically; it's no more a matter of choice than is eye color.

Also, history is rife with African-Americans who have "passed."

This is not to minimize the discrimination African-Americans have suffered in the past, and continue to suffer, but that doesn't mean that the lesbian and gay community haven't, and don't.

Sent by Ed C | 5:25 PM | 6-16-2008

If I was a holocaust survivor, and run a specialty cake shop, would I have the right to decline to build a cake with a swastika (or offensive words) on it? It's for a Nazi national convention, which is a perfectly legal organization (they have the right to assemble). Can I decline to serve the Nazis due to my personal beliefs and feelings? If I can't, will the government coerce me into doing so? That doesn't sound like a free country. If I can decline to serve the Nazis, is it my status as a holocaust survivor that allows me that privilege, or does anyone who disagrees with the Nazis and their message have that right? Does it even matter where my views come from, or what they are? What if instead of Nazis, they were terrorist sympathizers, and wanted a cake glorifying the fall of the trade towers, how many of us would make that cake? If I believe marriage (between anyone) to be amoral, I am within my rights not to make wedding cakes. It may hurt my cake business to do so, but I can do it.

In these cases my cooperation implies my consent, and I should not be forced to imply my consent upon any lifestyle, ideology or religion which I do not agree with. Any organization (including religions) which take ANY moral position cannot be forced to imply consent upon actions which are against that position, and it doesn't matter whether that position is right or wrong. There are many situations in which it would be illegal to deny services, specifically in those that do not imply consent. If a Nazi came in and bought a cake in the display window, it doesn't mean that I agree with his/her position, but if I make a special one with a swastika it does. The swastika cake and the other cake are different services, they are not asking for something that I sell to everyone, they are asking for a different service.

By the same token, those who ask for services involving same-sex services for a wedding, counseling, etc., are asking for different services than those who ask for their heterosexual equivalents. The differences (though small) may be of great moral import to the provider of the service, and those differences (such as having 2 brides, or 2 grooms) are grounds for the provider of the service to decline service. This isn't to say that all these lawsuits aren't justified, there are certainly instances of discrimination going on in opposition to homosexuals, but many, like the photographers do not fall into that category. Please realize that in many of these cases, homosexuals are asking for services which are different, specialized services which these businesses have the option to deny. However if they ask for the exact same service, it would be illegal to deny service, on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Sent by Michael | 5:32 PM | 6-16-2008

I greatly appreciated the sensitivity and nuance that was given to the complex topic of same-sex marriage. It was a pleasure listening to the program.

Sent by zak woods | 5:43 PM | 6-16-2008

Not allowing people to marry is discrimination. If you think of it in terms of race there is no question in most sane people's minds. As a gay man I find it pretty amusing that within my 48 y.o. lifetime the arguments against gay rights has gone from, "Those gays can't form long-term relationships" to "Those gays want to affirm their commitment in marriage". Gay marriage has taken place in a few place around the country and no sky has fallen.

Beside, considering the economic tight spot California is in these days it's coughers could really use the projected billions of dollars generated from all those wedding parties, hotel rooms, caterers, etc, etc, etc.

We're here, We're queer, and We're married. Get over it!

Sent by Raul | 5:50 PM | 6-16-2008

Respectfully, Ryan being gay is not a practice neither is being str8 I don't imagine. I personally would never belong to a church that thought I was an abomination but if for some reason you did and wanted to get married there you should have that right. As long as churches receive federal tax exemptions they should not be allow to discriminate on the my gay dime.

Sent by Raul | 5:55 PM | 6-16-2008

Rich V.
Walruses and Foxes are not the same species, homosexuals & heterosexuals are. In the eyes of the state one Homo sapiens should be the equal of the next in any and all things.
So far as Marriage being the universal property of heterosexuals, I am certain that there were Native American tribes who recognized a man's right to put on women's clothes, take a husband and live as a female.

With regard to the differences between Homosexuals and Blacks (not just American) the difference is far smaller than you suppose. Certainly, individuals of both groups have "passed" in the larger society. For both it is a life of misery. For both the difference is genetic, and yet such a minor part of the genome that it does not much effect the individuals physiology or cognition.

In both cases it is primarily a 'perception of self' If Henry Louis Gates sees himself as black, who were the geneticists to tell him that he is more white than not. But it is not a choice: oh no, ask H.L. Gates if he chose to be black or if he was born that way and see what he says.

The conservative pundit on today's show admitted at some point that one might be born gay but that was not the problem so much as the adoption of the 'lifestyle'. Does that mean the photographer might have said, Ok, I'll shoot gays,, but not any f--s? Who decides, who's too queer, who's too black, who's too catholic to be let inside.

Sent by Marya DeBlasi | 7:32 PM | 6-16-2008

Every time I hear one of these stories I wonder the exact same thing: why do religious organizations get treated differently by the government than everyone else? Isn't being religious just a declaration of belief? What beliefs can and cannot be a "religion"? Can I start worshiping pickles tomorrow and thereafter stop paying taxes or regarding any law that I deem counter to my new beliefs? Freedom of religion means that you are protected from the imposition of religion by the government (Congress shall pass no law...), not that you are above the law..

Sent by Phil Kulak | 10:21 PM | 6-16-2008

Restrictions to marriage exist all over. Consanguinity, age, coercion, etc. If love is all that mattered, then we could marry a lightpole.
Moreover, sodium and chlorine combine and form salt. Combine sodium and sodium and it is not salt. Similarly, man and woman join and it is called marriage. Man and man or woman and woman join and you can call it what you want, but it isn't marriage but another thing all together.

Sent by Stephen Casey | 11:22 PM | 6-16-2008

As a commercial artist, I don't care what your race, sex, sexual orientation or religion is. I'll work for you. Will I decline work that I find distasteful or would jeopardize my livelihood? Absolutely, and it will again be regardless of the above designations. For that matter, I might decline work for dozens of reasons. Are you going to sue me for "discrimination"? Maybe you simply suspect that I'm not really all that busy, or that the job falls outside the sphere of my expertise, and that in reality I just don't like you. How are you going to prove that, and who is going to decide it has been proven and what are they going to base that decision on? That's what people need to keep in mind in the discussion. When we try to get into peoples' heads and divine why it is they're "discriminating" against someone, it's a fine line you're walking, and the fact that the photographers in question lost is troubling, to say the least. One of the guests today opined that the photography studio (and by implication, similar operations) should make sure to have someone on staff that wouldn't object to taking on whatever project the owners didn't want a part of. This is absurd in two ways: 1) if I don't want to be associated with a project, how on earth would simply putting one of my employees on it solve the problem? My company is still doing the work that I find distasteful or would jeopardize my livelihood! 2) The photography business in question was a husband and wife operation. It is simply ridiculous to think that small businesses should have staff for "just in case" moments like this, and the fact that the guest on today's show was able to make such a statement with any assumption of retaining credibility strains credulity.

Sent by K McNutt, | 2:25 AM | 6-17-2008

Since, the no-fault divorce law that was initiated by California, can we call a marriage license a contract between tow people since one can cancel it anytime ?

Sent by soleil10 | 7:59 AM | 6-17-2008

Scientific evidence continues to amass that homosexual behavior and orientation is an integral part of the natural order in all sexually dimorphic species. Conversely, religious belief has always been a "lifestyle choice," typically imposed on the young before they are capable of abstract, critical thought. The concept of freedom of religious expression exists due to the historical fact that religious institutions developed before their democratic counterparts. The political power of organized religion had to be accommodated in order for democracy to even exist.

Sent by Mike | 9:25 AM | 6-17-2008

I agree with Mike McAngus's comment and would like to add this:

What about churches or synagogues or whatever that don't perform ceremonies for and/or recognize mixed religion married couples? My mom is Jewish and my dad is Christian, and they just got married by a judge so there was no issue, and my dad is Presbyterian so there's not real issue there, but if he were Catholic, how would that work with his church and his children and everything else? How should it work? I don't really have an answer here, I was just thinking about it. And I don't think anyone's blogging about this anymore so it doesn't matter anyway :)

Sent by Alison | 9:47 AM | 6-17-2008

The purpose of redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships is to send a message to society that homosexual conduct is not only NOT deserving of society's condemnation, and not even to reflect the toleration of a liberal society; rather, the point of redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships is to provide a footing for homosexual conduct from which such conduct is no longer open to public criticism. In Canada, where the citizenry does not enjoy the protections of our First Amendment, individuals and organizations have already incurred heavy fines for daring to declare publicly that homosexual conduct is sinful. In the American context, homosexual marriage is not about "love", but about insulating certain conduct from criticism. The syllogism runs thus: marriage is about love, therefore anyone who opposes marriage must be against love -- or "pro-hate"; hate is bad; people should not be permitted to say hateful things; some religious religious people say that marriage should not be redefined to include homosexual relationships. Some religious people, therefore, are pro-hate; hate speech should not be tolerated. Therefore, those religious people should be silenced. And Voila, the vanishing First Amendment.

Sent by Nathan Earle | 10:17 AM | 6-17-2008

There are two sides of situation being discussed here and I hear them being confused. 1) the right of gay couples to be legally married; and 2) the right of gay couples to be recognized as married by religion.

Religion has the right to accept or reject homosexuality according to their sacred traditions. In terms of being recognized by the state, homosexuals deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples.
Religious homosexuals have a harder issue to deal with, but there are Christian denominations that accept homosexuality.
As for the photographer, wouldn't it have been easier just to say they were booked than to say they wouldn't take the photos because the couple were gay? Though I must admit, there are many things in our society that Christians don't agree with (pre-marital sex, drinking, etc) and we all seem to be able to share our rights. The state's acceptance of homosexuals' rights to be married, does not prevent Christians from believing homosexuality is sinful.

Sent by Ayrin Zahner | 2:17 PM | 6-17-2008

In recent years, many of us have created much consternation by confusing civil marriage with Holy Matrimony.
Many are right in concluding that religious bodies should be free to decide what should constitute, for them, a religious marriage. Their insistence that anyone's religious view of marriage should govern civil marriage is, however, misguided.

In the US, religious marriage is subordinate to civil marriage; therefore the minister says: "By the authority vested in me by the state of ..."

The California Supreme Court rightly ruled on civil marriage, not holy matrimony.

While the Roman Catholic Church can claim that it has long held matrimony to be a sacrament, the same it not true for the Reformed tradition.

In 1530, in his "Von den Ehesachen, " Luther says: "No one indeed can deny that marriage is an external worldly thing, like clothes and food, house and home, subject to worldly authority, as shown by so many imperial laws governing it." Earlier, in "De captivitate Babylonica" he wrote: "Not only is the sacramental character of matrimony without foundation in Scripture; but the very traditions, which claim such sacredness for it, are a mere jest"; and two pages further on: "Marriage may therefore be a figure of Christ and the Church ; it is, however, no Divinely instituted sacrament , but the invention of men in the Church , arising from ignorance of the subject."

Remember, too, from 1620 until 1686 marriage was strictly a civil and not an ecclesiastical ceremony for the Calvinist Puritans in Massachusetts Bay.

I write as one who is an evangelical Christian who believes in the clear separation of church and state. In reciprocity for the state not messing with my church, I don't believe that my (or any other) church should hold that its views should be forced upon the state.

Sent by John Baum | 9:13 PM | 6-17-2008

It's morally wrong and it's an abomination to the Lord for samesex to marry. The word of God condemns homonsexual and lebianism lifestyle. God intended for man and woman to produce and multiply the earth with children in a family. Not only but He set an example for marriage in Gensis when he created Adam and Eve. He frowns upon such ungodly relations as samesex. Samesex marriage are not bless,but cursed by God. Infact,if he wanted samesex marriage he would have bless it and honor it in the bible, but instead he condemns it. Therfore, samesex marriage is wrong an it will never produce anything good. And all those who practice it or pass laws to condone it will not go unpunish.

Sent by KATIE DANIELS | 4:18 PM | 6-18-2008

John Baum: Thank you for proving that some clear-headed democracy-loving people exist among evangelicals today. You do your church and your people a credit, unlike the commentator immediately following your post.

Ayrin Zahner also understands the issues here quite clearly, and I applaud him. No one is saying churches must perform marriages they disapprove of. What is at issue here are government benefits that are afforded only to married couples, but which are being denied to some couples on a discriminatory basis. This is a constitutional issue at its core.

To Nathan Earle: Your statements about people who oppose gay marriage being in the wrong are entirely correct, yet sadly I sense that you are saying them sarcastically. How you can mouth sense but disdain it at the same time defies understanding. Sure, some people get married for reasons other than love - straight people invented that trick. It's nothing special. But the majority of marriages, straight and gay are for love.

And regardless, it's none of the government's business whether love is involved in a marriage. That's a rather subjective standard to maintain, especially when we're talking about the granting or denying of tangible benefits such as visitation rights, custody rights, and a sizable tax break. When we're talking about things like this, we normally expect the government to be as objective and disinterested as possible.

Mike: very well said, and technically correct. But I do feel that, when kept in its proper place (which is to say, very very far away from politics and the reins of secular power), religion still has a meaningful role to play in many people's lives, and isn't worthy of blanket contempt merely for the reprehensible actions of some people who claim to be religious.


Sent by Kasreyn | 11:03 AM | 6-19-2008

Sentence by sentence for Katie, just because she makes it so easy.

An abomination to the lord *you* believe in; the one I believe in is the essence of love for all. It's not a lifestyle since it's not a choice. Plenty more people are reproducing than the planet can support anyway, so we don't need gays to help on that score. Don't forget Lillith - oh, wait, you guys did. I always imagine god smiling, not frowning. I imagine him loving, not cursing. If god thought slavery was wrong he wouldn't have condoned it in the bible. Therefore, slavery is great and will always produce good, and those who free slaves or pass laws to condemn slavery will not go unpunish(ed).

Boy, that was way too easy...

Sent by Kasreyn | 11:38 AM | 6-19-2008

Still don't get why people opposed to same-sex marriage get sued? Where's the tolerance for their beliefs? Isn't it all about tolerance? Seems that I'm constantly told that I have to tolerate (read - accept) same-sex marriage, but when I speak up and say that I don't think it's right, I run the risk of being sued.

There's still freedom of association. If I don't want to provide service and the service is freely available elsewhere, then go elsewhere. I see hate all over the lawsuit against that photographer. I hope that the photographer wins the case because they deserve to as a business. If it goes against their religious beliefs to do so, why should they be forced to abandon those beliefs? What if they were asked to photograph soft-porn? Should they be forced to accept? Get over yourselves already and realize that tolerance goes both ways and tolerance <> acceptance. I can completely tolerate someone smoking while not accepting that it's a wise choice for them. Same for drinking or wearing polka dots or whatever.

And finally, with the comparisons between skin color and homosexuality - I can look at someone and discern their skin color. I cannot look at someone and discern their sexual orientation. They have to either act or speak in such a way that I would know it. There's quite a big difference between the two there.

Sent by PAS | 3:34 PM | 6-19-2008

PAS, it's very simple. You can oppose it all you want, dislike it all you want, preach against it (in my opinion, at least) all you want. *Taking action to prevent it* is what is inappropriate, because that's forcing your beliefs down someone else's throat. Saying you think gay marriage is wrong is one thing. Going to the polls and voting for a gay marriage ban crosses the line from tolerance into bigotry.

For what it's worth, I don't really agree that the case against the photographer was entirely legit (though refusing service based *solely* on sexual orientation is no different from a "whites only" lunch counter during the 50's). And I feel strongly that no church should be forced to marry someone it doesn't want to. (There are plenty of churches that will, if allowed - the Unitarian Universalists come to mind.) But preventing gay people from getting married in civil ceremonies - which prevents them from taking advantage of all the real, tangible legal and financial benefits that marriage brings in our society, is a discriminatory practice that violates gay people's civil rights by making them into second-class citizens. And that directly contravenes the constitution. It's also an act of pointless cruelty, as gay marriage does no harm to straight people, so straight people have no justification for interfering with and preventing others' happiness.

As for your final analogy, it doesn't hold water. I have an old friend who suffers from severe narcolepsy. You can't look at someone and determine if they suffer from narcolepsy (unless you happen to see them fall asleep suddenly) - so that must mean narcolepsy is something he chooses to do, by your reasoning. There are many differences between people which are not apparent to immediate inspection, and to expect to be able to immediately pigeon-hole every person you see is both foolhardy and doomed to failure.

You say you can tolerate without accepting the wisdom of others' choices. That's fine. But being gay (or black, or narcoleptic) is not a choice. It is one's nature. And to judge someone for their nature is inherently unjust.

Sent by Kasreyn | 4:37 PM | 6-19-2008

Our great country was founded by those seeking religious freedom. It saddens me that the sacrifices of the pilgrims and the founding fathers has been trampled by those seeking to force others to follow their agenda. We are quickly becoming a rudderless society.

The worst part is most people don't realize that by voting against prop 8, kindergarten teaches will be required by law to teach their classes about gay marriage. This is happening in Massachusetts and parents are getting no warning beforehand.

Stand up for what is right and vote yes on Prop 8.

Sent by John | 4:12 AM | 9-20-2008